Mark Bauerlein’s Brainstorm post on the demise of tenure is burning up the Web; his warning that higher education is about to start winnowing out tenure in weaker programs is absolutely spot on in its truth, I’m afraid. Teaching-intensive institutions will face this reality very quickly over the coming decade.
Not long ago, however, I wrote a column about how faculty would be wise to pursue “portable” tenure, the tenure within one’s profession that makes one marketable throughout a lifetime. As with many things in our age, we won’t be able to place our faith in institutions for our care and success; the burden is going to be placed squarely on our shoulders. This will be difficult, but some kind of equilibrium will develop in the future. Full-time jobs with benefits will be more competitive, which will be brutal in many ways, but I am concerned not only with the realities of the marketplace but also with an important benefit tenure offers: the increased aegis of academic freedom. The pressures on the professoriate, from both on-campus and off-campus courses, will be immense as tenure declines. These are serious times indeed. Do you think that Bauerlein’s warning is accurate?